Busy First Council Meeting in New Term

In the first Committee of the Whole Council meeting with the new Council, questions by the Mayor and Councillors raised some key issues.  In a delegation, Carol Leighton said that the Albert Street Transit Shelter is occupied by drug users; in another delegation, Dave Tunstead said that “free” downtown parking is not free; both Mayor Lucas Cleveland and Councillor Miriam Mutton asked about the new stormwater fee; the Mayor asked about costs for the Harbour so profitability could be determined and Director Geerts wanted immediate approval to start on Harbour repairs with a new estimated total cost of $15M to $20M.  Council also dealt with several other issues – a busy meeting. I will attempt to cover some of them in my summary below.

Transit Shelter

The Transit shelter on Albert Street seems to have become a place where homeless drug users shoot up and where they congregate.  There is also alcohol consumed there. Carol Leighton lives nearby and has made numerous calls to By-Law enforcement and Police – they respond but once they leave, the offenders return; there was even a sexual assault reported on December 7 in the afternoon. There has been damage to the shelter and washrooms and although Staff say they are “working with Police” on it, the problem continues.  Carol made some suggestions including that the shelter be locked when not supervised.  She commented that taxpayers are paying for illegal activity and for repairs to damage.  Brent Larmer commented that attending to this issue means that By-Law officers have less time for other items – there have been 31 calls for them on this issue in the last 37 days.

Downtown Parking

Dave Tunstead said that parking downtown in December has been promoted as free – but it’s not.  Only the first hour of on-street parking is free.  Miriam Mutton moved that this be extended to January 1 and this passed but will not be in effect until ratified at the regular Council meeting on December 19.  An attempt by Councillor Aaron Burchat to suspend the Council rules so that it could be in effect immediately was defeated – it needs a two thirds majority but only Miriam and Adam  supported his motion.  The result being 3-3 – not two thirds – so the motion to suspend was defeated and free all day parking for the Holiday season will not take effect until December 19. [Text in italics is a correction]

Stormwater Fee

As described in a previous post, the Town of Cobourg plans to move funding of stormwater management from the tax levy to a fee that depends on the type and size of property (see this report).  When this came up for approval, Mayor Cleveland asked: “Is there an incentive to reduce stormwater, and if not, why not?”  In response Director Laurie Wills said that other larger municipalities take account of measures taken by property owners but that Cobourg does not have the resources to do this.   Councillor Mutton expressed concern that larger residential properties pay more but would have more area to absorb runoff.  Director Wills said that this was allowed for in the rates(!).  And when asked would Walmart pay less, the response was that residents pay less although that’s relative to what they pay now via the tax levy.  Mayor Cleveland asked what assurance is there that the tax hit would be less?  Director Wills said that the recent average amount of $400K would be transferred from taxes to the stormwater fee but there are no actual line items showing the change.  Hopefully this will be clear when we see the budgets at the budget meetings in January (See resources for dates).

Harbour

Also the subject of a previous post, Mayor Cleveland asked for harbour costs so profit can be determined.  Director Geerts responded that although most revenue is now in, not all costs have yet been recorded.  These will be available in a future report.

Also discussed was the work required to repair the harbour – this will be the subject of a future post on this news blog.

General Comments

Mayor Lucas Cleveland plus Councillors Miriam Mutton and Aaron Burchat were particularly active in asking questions and making motions although new Councillor Randy Barber was not shy.  Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty was absent.  I also noticed that the Mayor was mostly referred to as “Mr. Mayor” instead of “Your Worship”.

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Rob
16 December 2022 8:42 am

Tear the thing down/lock it up. Its unnecessary and frankly it was built too small for the indented purpose; Its not a bus shelter, it was obviously designed to be a warming station and change area for the Frink, hence the bathrooms. Skaters can easily change on a bench. Install some outdoors heaters or have small enclosed wood burning fires (similar to those in the town square of Blue Mountain). If you can’t play nice, we will take the toys away. This is a band aid solution because the true issue is substance abuse and homelessness which is not a Municipal issue.

Cobourg taxpayer
15 December 2022 9:38 am

Watch Vancouver is Dying a documentary on YouTube.

Dave
15 December 2022 9:04 am

Safe injection sites have proved to be a failure elsewhere. Paramedics who are reported to be busy to the point of exhaustion spend a lot of time being called out to treat overdose again and again where there are safe injection sites. The shelter provided in Toronto on The Esplanade is a prime example. Residents intimidated, feces on the street, needles on properties, urinating addicts out in public, break ins, assaults in a once peaceful neighbourhood. The shelter was closed and the neighbourhood is recovering, An addiction expert has stated that all these things have done nothing, are just enabling. Peterborough residents just voted down a safe injection site due to all the above mentioned problems that came to the neighbourhoods where they are located. The Esplanade was not the only disaster area, where ever these shelters and safe injections sites were opened it was the same. Learn by the examples set forth in other cities. They don’t work.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Dave
15 December 2022 9:41 am

Dave

While I don:t keep notes I have read about successful safe injection sites elsewhere, including Toronto. You sound like Stephen Harper who tried to outlaw them.

Cobourg is a small community where people tend to relate to and acknowledge eachother, hold the door open for strangers, say goodmorning.

A well conceived safe injection centre with counciling and help in finding a job is worth a try. Otherwise what’s your solution? No positive response and problems only get worse!

Besides, there is a moral component to all this. According to one whose birthday we are about to celebrate, we should love and care for eachother. But then, considering the highly materialistic values we all seem to have adopted, maybe I’m just being silly.

Last edited 1 month ago by Keith Oliver
Dave
Reply to  Keith Oliver
15 December 2022 10:30 am

With growing up in a neighbourhood with drug addicts, working as a teenager many were my customers. Heroin was the drug mostly then as well as cocaine. These people came from homes with hard working parents. One was incarcerated for armed robbery – on release they returned to Heroin, washed up on the shores of Lake Ontario – fell in, was offed due to drug debt, overdosed? – no one will ever know. another an unpleasant fellow a drug dealer and user was murdered for a drug rip off, I could go on giving examples but the fact was Keith they chose that path. There were a few that quit, the choice was theirs and many didn’t want to change or attend programs. It is heartbreaking for the people that love them but the addict must be the one to make that choice and so few do.

Stephen Harper I am not Keith. But a realist. Then drug addiction was frowned on now there is a softer approach and many more addicts inflicting their life style choices on others. Currently there is help in many cities but shelters, self addiction sites and counselling are having little affect. Perhaps Adam Bureau who has stated he overcome a drug addiction after a car accident will have some ideas of how to save these people. All I see is what I saw years ago – on and on with it until death is the result. I am not heartless Keith I knew these people, saw them often when they came in where I worked and knew some very well. Heavier sentences for dealers and importers – a reform of the judicial system – take a good look at who you vote for Keith!

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Dave
15 December 2022 11:25 am

Dave

During the period in your life where you describe your experience with addicts, was anykind of help available such as safe injection sites, councelling, job and housing opportunities? A majority of addicts want out but need help in finding the way that works for them. That’s what this conversation should be about.

Dave
Reply to  Keith Oliver
15 December 2022 11:29 am

Yes. Keith there was help available but as you know safe injections sites created for the multitude of addicts today were not available but counselling, housing help and support were if one chose to seek it. The ones I knew were all housed supporting themselves through robbery, drug dealing and retail theft mostly plus their times of incarceration.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Keith Oliver
Reply to  Dave
15 December 2022 1:42 pm

Dave

Interesting how our experience differs. I lived and worked in Washington DC from 1988 until 1996 when I returned to Canada. A high proportion of addicts in DC I know for a fact we’re highly paid professionals. The local drug trade prospered because of middle-class users who drove in from the Maryland suburbs. Well educated people have a better way of bidding their problem.

Geo
15 December 2022 7:57 am

What about the parking downtown for Christmas period? Two hour paid parking plus one hour grace period is a laugh. People have lunch and then have to run back before free hour is up. Heard Port Hope and other towns have free parking downtown for December to bring in shoppers. If you want outsider money to come into your community have free parking. Also, don’t think many people in Cobourg really care about the pier as we have a lot of seniors in Cobourg. I am at the age that I will never see it fully repaired.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Geo
15 December 2022 8:26 am

Geo, until a few years ago downtown Cobourg parking was free throughout the year. Another tax grab…

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken Strauss
15 December 2022 9:22 am

Ken

It’s far from a tax grab. Parking fees and periods of free parking are set in the downtown area to create turnover at a reasonable rate while not discouraging car users froin shopping or enjoying the waterfront.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
15 December 2022 9:44 am

Really? We went from the 1950s until about 2018 without parking meters.

I don’t know about others but the nuisance of parking meters (now machines a half-block walk from my parking spot) are a significant disincentive to my downtown shopping.

If the reason for parking fees is to encourage turnover then perhaps there should be two hours of free parking.

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken Strauss
15 December 2022 11:32 am

Ken

From the 1950s to 2018 the ownership and use of cats has increased expotentially, not to mention sprawl, the growth of suburbs and malls with their large, cheaper retailers and services. As a result we are living in a very different world with very different problems.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
15 December 2022 2:19 pm

From the 1950s to 2018 the ownership and use of cats has increased expotentially[sic],

Really, Keith? I don’t have a cat. Do you?

JimT
Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 December 2022 10:34 am

…and what do you “use” cats for anyway?

Keith Oliver
14 December 2022 11:43 pm

One use of the Albert St “transit shelter” is its’ use as a changing area for skaters, which further complicates the problem.

Bylaw officers are not the police and I believe are not trained to handle violent or irrational behaviour. Much of drug use and homelessness in Cobourg is hidden and as a community we have failed to respond effectively, sweeping it under the rug or delaying action until further studies are made.

As suggested by others, perhaps we need a safe injection site in the downtown area coupled with available counciling and warming.

In addition, increasing the intensity of the lighting inside the changing area could help discourage irresponsible behavior. It’s worked elsewhere. Install armrests along benches so people can’t lie down. Play bad modern classical music. This has been used successfully to stop unacceptable behavior in mall bathrooms.

Last edited 1 month ago by Keith Oliver
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
15 December 2022 8:21 am

As suggested by others, perhaps we need a safe injection site in the downtown area coupled with available counciling[sic] and warming.

Keith, I believe that you live very close to downtown and have more space than you require. Is your residence a good location for the proposed safe injection site? As you have previously noted, we all need to do our part!

cornbread
Reply to  Keith Oliver
15 December 2022 8:49 am

Build a safe “Injection Site” and they will come. Are you fools trying to ruin Cobourg?

Eastender
14 December 2022 6:45 pm

Transit shelter. Seems like we need to:
1) Lock the bloody thing.
2) Station a By Law Officer there at all times while it is open, if it is to remain open. (Did not understand Brent Larmers’ comments. Isn’t that their job?)
3) Open a safe injection site (now the sky is going to fall).
We need to be tough on un-civil behaviour.

Carol Leighton
Reply to  Eastender
14 December 2022 9:19 pm

Currently, the Transit Shelter is not safe for anyone, which includes the homeless, substance abusers, downtown Cobourg neighbours or visitors to Rotary Park.

There are sanctioned warming centres that can be accessed by the population currently using the Transit Shelter.

The intended use of the Transit Shelter is to provide temporary refuge and washroom access for all community residents who are downtown, not just a select few who are there for hours and intimidate the general public when they attempt to use this facility.

I’m not an expert in terms of solutions, but I understand that it’s important for our community to voice their concerns about the ability to use this public facility. This will encourage the decision-makers to dedicate the resources necessary to solve this problem.

Council is expected to respond to the presentation given at the Committee of the Whole meeting this past week.

This council meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 19 at 6 pm in Victoria Hall. Concerned citizens are encouraged to attend.

Bryan
Reply to  Carol Leighton
14 December 2022 10:05 pm

Carol L,

Attend is good. Make a delegation or ask questions during the open forum segment.

I suggest Council waive the current resident forum question period at the end of the meeting and allow resident questions at the end of each agenda segment prior to the vote.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
marya
Reply to  Carol Leighton
15 December 2022 1:45 pm

Thanks for being an advocate, Carol. Brent Larmer’s response is an irresponsible or flippant one. I fear for the adults and the children who will be using the Terminal for skating. Even the Cobourg Transit Drivers with few choices “to go” in their busy days will not go there. Such a sad degeneration of a wonderful location.

marya
Reply to  marya
17 December 2022 8:18 am

There has been a change and the Bus Terminal has Security. Brent Larmer and Others have redeemed themselves.

With much appreciation from those of us who live and work nearby.

Gerinator
14 December 2022 4:38 pm

Based on the comments below: Dir Wills is playing games with timing of information and the information (content) itself. I hearken back to former mayors words ‘Staff make the decisions’. Seems like this new council needs to drive a stake into the ground on what is acceptable OR more of the same for the next 4 years.

Wendy
Reply to  Gerinator
14 December 2022 8:51 pm

We had an interaction with Dir Wills regarding non functioning street lights. She told us if we were not happy with the two week replacement window we could go to council and complain, we chose not to go that route. A month later, contacting Ms Vaughn and only after a car going into the ditch on our lawn did the problem get resolved.

Cobourg taxpayer
14 December 2022 2:14 pm

Certain town of Cobourg staff members have been very adept in the past at pulling the wool over the eyes of council. For example giving obscure answers and punting issues off into the future. Hopefully the (minority) new councillors we have will pursue important issues and demand answers. The most accountable is Tracey Vaughn as council directly hired her and she should be overseeing a timely and accurate response from staff.

Bryan
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
14 December 2022 8:19 pm

CT,
The CAO is the ranking executive on staff and is totally responsible and accountable for all of the corporation’s (Town’s) activities.

In the exercise of their oversight mandate, Council members should not accept fluffy, obscure non-answers from staff. They should not be shy about “calling BS” on answers of this type and should push for clear concise answers.

If that makes staff uncomfortable or puts them on the spot, too bad.

cornbread
Reply to  Bryan
15 December 2022 9:58 am

Perhaps we need someone strong enough to “Clean House” in this town. Are they (staff) all back to work yet or are some still at home?

Marie
14 December 2022 11:36 am

… did we not just have an election where the good people of Cobourg did not see fit to elect a majority from the slate of fiscally responsible candidates… we get what we voted for….

Eastender
Reply to  Marie
14 December 2022 6:37 pm

Huh? I am so confused…..

cornbread
14 December 2022 9:16 am

The Harbour is fine…protected deep water. The problem and the money pit is what the town wants to do with the “Jetty”. If you think $20 million will do it…that’s the start position. With our economy like it is…the town wanting Stormwater Fees…Water going up about 7%…Our town Union Workers including Police and Fire wanting big wage settlements to fight inflation in the coming years…increased cost for road repairs etc.etc. our tax bill will be increasing by leaps and bounds. For the last 2 years the Jetty has not been used, but it still protects the Harbour. We don’t need a new playground while we have the beach and all the associated town properties/parks in the area. Learn to live within our means.

Andrew Allan
14 December 2022 9:11 am

Larger green residential properties have more area for storm runoff to be absorbed so we should we be paying more,should be less.

Ken
Reply to  Andrew Allan
14 December 2022 9:35 am

The same for those/us in the Pebble Beach area, where the rain water runs into a ditch, then out to the lake!

Bryan
Reply to  Ken
14 December 2022 10:06 am

Ken,
Like Pebble Beach and Brook Rd S, there are some areas in Town that do not have storm-water sewers. These areas also tend to have larger lots which, as several commenters have noted, absorb the water.

It is unlikely that the ditches & driveway culverts in these areas have received any maintenance in the past ten years and are not likely to in the next ten.

I suggest that these non-storm sewer areas be treated as “agricultural” and pay the lowest fee.

I also suggest that the storm-water “dept” be treated as a “self-sufficient” business unit and remain in the budget. where it is subject to Council’s oversight. Other “user-fee” departments (business units) are included in the budget: marina, VPC, parking, for example and subject to Council’s oversight.

If the storm-water business unit (dept) in not in the budget there is no transparency or accountability. As I believe Dir Wills commented in response to a Council member question…..there will be no reporting of expenses.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Keith Oliver
Reply to  Ken
15 December 2022 9:51 am

Ken

Drainage ditches need to be maintained, culverts under entrances to private properties need to be replaced from time to time, as recently happened along rte 45 south of Baltimore.

Ken Strauss
13 December 2022 9:46 pm

Hopefully this will be clear when we see the budgets at the budget meetings in January.

If the stormwater management bylaw is passed without changes on Monday it will be too late to have things clarified in January. The current scheme for stormwater management will be particularly expensive for those with larger than average properties. If you have any doubts about it costing less, contact our Councillors before Monday’s meeting or be ready to pay dearly for some swamp land in January.

Kathleen
Reply to  Ken Strauss
14 December 2022 8:32 am

Agreed.
Mayor Cleveland asked: “Is there an incentive to reduce stormwater, and if not, why not?” In response Director Laurie Wills said that other larger municipalities take account of measures taken by property owners but that Cobourg does not have the resources to do this.”
Always the same response by Staff.
Never, “We’ll work on that”.

ben
13 December 2022 7:03 pm

If you believe this I have some swampland for you as well: the response was that residents pay less although that’s relative to what they pay now via the tax levy.”

I say prove it! 

Bryan
Reply to  ben
13 December 2022 9:25 pm

Ben,

Lucas asked if the removal of the storm water costs from the levy would reduce property taxes. Dir Wills responded NO. Other expenses would come along to take their place.

The net result is that property taxes won’t be reduced and property owners will pay an additional user fee.

The Town’s solution is always the same: more revenue, never cut expenses.

Kevin
Reply to  ben
14 December 2022 7:53 am

And when asked would Walmart pay less, the response was that residents pay less although that’s relative to what they pay now via the tax levy Maybe residents will be paying less than Walmart? Unless property taxes are actually reduced by more than the new stormwater charges we will be paying more. From Bryan’s post it is clear property taxes will not be reduced. What did Dir. Wills mean “… that residents pay less …”?